Fullback Beasley signs four-year deal

Another piece to the 49ers' offensive puzzle remained in place Friday when unrestricted free agent Fred Beasley signed a four-year, $6.075 million contract to remain with the team, allowing San Francisco to secure one of the NFL's most coveted fullbacks.

Beasley, who received a $1.4 million signing bonus, doesn't get the same kind of recognition for San Francisco's offensive success as stars such as quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Terrell Owens and running back Garrison Hearst, but he also plays a major role in the attack. He's the second free-agent offensive starter the Niners have signed in the past week.

"We've got a great thing going on and I think the 49ers are trying to keep the team intact," said Beasley, 27, the team's sixth-round draft choice in 1998. Known as one of the league's best blocking fullbacks, Beasley has started 41 games over the past three seasons while paving the way for a 1,000-yard rusher each of those seasons. He also has contributed 496 yards and eight touchdowns rushing and 80 receptions for 625 yards and three touchdowns since joining the Niners.

The 1,000-yard rusher Beasley blocked for in 2001 is Garrison Hearst, who now remains - with safety Lance Schulters - as San Francisco's top unrestricted free agent that remains unsigned. Both players are being courted by other teams, and Hearst visited Cleveland on Wednesday and Atlanta - where he lives in the offseason - on Thursday. Beasley and Hearst are good friends who have expressed a desire to continue playing together in the same backfield. And both have the same agent, Atlanta-based Pat Dye Jr. Niners general manager Terry Donahue said the recent free-agent re-signings of Beasley, center Jeremy Newberry and offensive lineman Matt Willig will not affect the team's ability to make an offer to Hearst or any other free agent.

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